The return of XIII Squadron marks the end of 18 years of RAF operations in the Gulf.
The homecoming of the last Tornado GR4 aircraft from the Middle East to RAF Marham in Norfolk also symbolises the end of operations for the RAF’s Tornado GR4 force as a whole.
Wing Commander Gerry Mayhew, the Officer Commanding XIII Squadron, said:
“It is a great honour to be in command of the final Tornado Sqn to conduct combat operations over Iraq and another to fly the very last Tornado sortie in the region.
“XIII Squadron, as part of the RAF’s wider Tornado Force, has been involved in operations over Iraq since 1991, carrying out a wide range of missions that have ranged from finding the infamous Scud missiles during the first Gulf War, to patrolling the no-fly-zones and supporting our Army and Coalition colleagues on the ground.
“I believe that we have made a significant contribution to the overall operational effort in I! raq and I am extremely proud of our people, who have worked incredibly hard and often in difficult conditions to get the job done.”
Missions flown by Tornado GR4 crews flying in the Middle East include close air support, reconnaissance, airborne forward air control and strike co-ordination armed response.
A typical mission over Iraq lasted eight hours, and involved loitering on station for up to six hours, interspersed with air-to-air refuelling provided by 101 Squadron VC10s.
When troops were fighting insurgents Tornado crews were often called to assist, to drop munitions if the situation warrants. The process involved working in close co-operation with Army ground forward air controllers, watching ahead of convoys for stopped vehicles and / or individuals acting suspiciously.
During sorties flown for Op TELIC GR4 crews offered the full spectrum of their skills in direct support to coalition ground forces. These included conducti! ng low level shows of force or employing weapons to assist ground forces if necessary.
The Tornados mixture of speed and precision made it ideally suited to come swiftly to the aid of troops that found themselves under attack.
Header Image: (Larger size) - VC10 and GR4 aircraft. Photographer, Corporal Scott Robertson, RAF.
Image 1: (Larger size) - VC10 and GR4 aircraft coming home. Photographer, Mr Derek Bower, RAF Yearbook.
Image 2: (Larger size) - Iraq Homecoming. Photographer, SAC Ellie Insley, RAF.
Image 3: (Larger size) - One of the homecoming aircrew is greeted by his family. Photographer, Corporal Si Meerwald, RAF.